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Back in 1997, the film Starship Troopers, while employing state of the art special effects, really came and went with little fanfare. It has since grown to become somewhat of a cult favorite (due largely to the fact that it was one of the first movies to be released in the DVD format). Columbia is hoping that DVD lightning will strike twice and have released direct to video Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation.

The Movie
Five years have passed since the original picture ended with the capture of the bug "brain". The federation has enjoyed victory after victory and the film opens on a small planet where the federation maintains a small outpost. A mobile infantry unit is battling against "the bugs" and it appears as though they are about to be overrun, when a portion of the unit is sent off to find the outpost and call for pick up from the federation forces. When this band arrives at the outpost, they discover it has been decimated in an attack by the bugs, and all of the soldiers are dead....with one exception. Locked in one of the blast furnaces is Captain Dax, a decorated war hero who had been incarcerated for allegedly murdering a federation general. When the bugs attack once again, it is only through Dax's skill and knowledge of the outpost that saves the soldiers from certain death.

Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation
In amongst the group of federation personnel is Lt. Pavlov Dill, a member of the Psycore who were instrumental in capturing and interrogating the brain. He is cursed with images of wave after wave of bugs attacking and destroying the federation. He realizes that another soldier, Pvt. Lei Sahara, also has some latent telepathic abilities as well. Forming an uneasy alliance with Dax, the trio discover and then try to prevent the newest plan the bugs have hatched to try and wipe out the federation. But will it be in time?

Anyone who was expecting the sequel to be anything like the first one is probably going to be surprised by this outing. The movie begins in familiar territory, on the battlefield against the bugs, but once the action switches to the outpost, the film slowly descends into a horror/slasher B movie. There are a lot of "gross out moments" to be had, with nearly emaciated skeletons talking, arms and legs coming off and at least one beheading (with the obligatory motion of holding the head up the camera). Oh, and that doesn't count the many hatchets in the face or lead pipes in the side of the head, which of course leave the receiver with the imprint of a pipe in their skull. Luckily for him, it's not enough to kill him.

Directed by Phil Tippett (the man responsible for the special effects in the original film), Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation tries to retain just enough of the original to be called a sequel. It imitates some of the first film's canned news reporting ("Would you like to know more?"), but not nearly as well. If you’re searching for the big bug battle finale….you won’t find it. With the limited budget, the best they can do is have a few scenes where there are multiple bugs present….and then most of those are off in the distance.

Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation
Video
Shot in high definition video instead of film, Tippett, in one of the features, explains how they attempted to use minimal lighting and the liberal use of smoke to give the movie a feeling as though it was shot on film. Since it is video, there is no film grain present, but the film does not have the richness and depth that film would provide. Many of the shots come across for what they are-very dimly lit sets on a movie soundstage. The only real colors present are dull greys and blues, and in this lighting, it really didn't matter much. Flesh tones come across nicely througout. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is appreciated, but even still, because of the material it is trying to convey it does nothing to lift the film to any type of true cinematic standing.

Audio
Well, here is a surprise! Unlike our Region 2 friends, the R1 disc comes complete with a DTS 5.1 English track. And it does serve well as, much like the first film, the number of bullets which are expended in this film goes beyond counting. It is nice to hear them come at you from all different sides, but that is the only way the track is put through its paces. All of the dialogue is very clear and crisp, and the DTS track is really the highlight of the whole disc. In the long run, however, a DTS track is really wasted here. Perhaps they should have taken some of the money for the DTS track and put it into the film’s original budget?

Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation
Extras
The extras, while sparse, do offer some interesting information on the making of the film. Of special note is the “From Green Screen to Silver Screen” featurette. In it, you see the process the filmmakers go through from photographing the initial action, preparing some rough computerized inserts, fleshing them out, and then finalizing the scene. It does present some “behind the scenes” work that is done when there are CGI effects involved.

“Inside the Federation” tells the story of how Tippett came to the project (his first directorial assignment), and also gives the major actors an opportunity to relate how well they all got along and the great job Tippett did in directing the film. It really is pretty standard fare as these type of featurettes go, and does go a bit overboard in the gushing praises offered by everyone.

The commentary, which includes Tippett, screen writer Ed Neumeier and producer Jon Davison does give some unique tidbits on the production. The trio spend the first 10 or so minutes reminding the listener how little money they had for the project, much to their chagrin, while fully recognizing that this lack of funds would relegate the final product to B-movie status. They do seem to have fun with the commentary however, noting how only one actor returned from the original (incidentally, she was killed in the first film and plays a completely different character here). They also relate how Columbia basically let them do whatever they wanted on the meager budget they had, and only really asked that a Star Wars like scroll be placed at the beginning of the film. Overall, not a bad commentary.

Other than some trailer for other CTHE releases, the only other supplemental material is a photo gallery, which, oddly enough, features almost all “behind the cameras” shots, and virtually none of the actual production, as one would expect.

Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation
Overall
When I first heard that there was going to be a Starship Troopers 2 I was very excited. I enjoyed the original and hoped that they could somehow manage to recreate some of its feel. Sadly, this is not the case. None of the stars from the first film opt for this second go round (is Casper Van Dien really that in demand in Hollywood?), and they are probably better for it, although their presence might have elevated the final product. Although it has Starship Troopers as its parent, what is left is really more a third cousin of an Aliens or The Thing film. Would you like to know more? No thanks, I think I’ll pass.


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